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Commentary & Analysis

Is the Offer One of Your Database Variables?

To move the needle on direct mail responses, your customers may change up their copy, their images, or their list. But what about their offers? A new Bed Bath & Beyond mailer raises an interesting question.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: March 6, 2019

Yesterday, I received a direct mail offer from Bed Bath & Beyond. I get lots of mailers from BBB, so initially I set it aside. It’s always the same offer—20% off. When those offers arrive, they don’t usually spur me to make a purchase because another one is always on the way. If I don’t take this one, I’ll wait for the next.  If I don’t need it now, BBB has conditioned me to wait.  

But this time, I looked twice. The offer was different this time. It was $10 off a purchase of $30 or more. At $30, that’s 33% off. That’s a much better deal, and I started thinking about something I might need so as not to let that offer get away.

I only thought about it for a second (because then I recognized what they were doing), but it was an interesting exercise. As soon as those thoughts started to arise, I started analyzing the offer more clearly. As long as customers keep their purchase between $30 and $49, they would get a better deal than the usual 20%. Of course, BBB is counting on customers buying more than $50 worth of merchandise, and when they did, $10 off would be less than 20%. The more they buy, the lower the percentage discount would be. Suddenly, the offer didn’t look so sweet anymore.

But what I’m interested in isn’t BBB’s gamble on customers’ willingness to do the math. It’s the fact that this offer moved me, even a little bit. It moved me from complacency into contemplation simply because it was different.

How often do your customers change up their offers? To help them move the needle, do you suggest changing up things like their copy, their images, and their list? If so, do you suggest that they change their offers, too? If you don’t, maybe you should. Even if “50% off” is essentially the same as “Buy One, Get One Free,” different people will respond to different approaches.

Changing up the offer can help you reach new people who didn’t respond to the original offer. Or who (like me) had become jaded to it. Even if a lot of new people don’t respond, you still learn something. It inserts a different data point into the mix, and you richen your customers’ database in a way that allows you capitalize on those insights in the future.

When was the last time your clients changed up their offers and tested them?

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”


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